What software are you currently using? Do you know if your software is up to date and really meets your needs? Software is a large purchase that can also require fees for licensing, training, and technical support. In this blog post, I’m going to help you to choose the right software for your business using a three-step process.
The Three-Step Process
Everyone loves software! However, a software investment is a big purchase. Software purchases should never be done impulsively, even if you get it at a bargain price. After all, it’s not a deal if you end up paying out for technical support or training.
Step One: What Do You Need?
For the first step, you as a business owner should make a list of the things you need the software package to do. Make sure you consider future wants and needs, too. For example, if you only have a few staff right now, collaboration tools probably aren’t high on the list.
However, if your business is going to grow significantly, you may include that as a requirement. Once everything has been considered, make a master list of wants and needs.
Step Two: Evaluating the Software
Now, choose at least three software packages that are in the general area of what you’re looking for. If possible, get trials and have a few staff members test them out.
Once you’ve evaluated the package, write down some basic information about each.
- Why do you want to use this software?
- What is the initial investment? (Make sure you include the cost of software and the cost of installation time. Also consider any computer upgrades that will be necessary, as well as time or resources needed to set these components up.)
- What will the cost be later on? (Make sure you consider upgrades or annual fees.)
- Will I need training? How much will that cost in time and money?
- What support options are available? (We suggest talking to people who have used this software and dealt with their technical support.)
- Will this software improve my businesses productivity? (In the short term, probably not, but in the long term, the benefits should be significant. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.)
- Will this software grow with my business?
Then, compare the software’s list of features with your list of wants and needs. Any package that doesn’t cover all of your needs should be disqualified automatically.
What if none of the packages you evaluate seem right? Well, the good news is that there are thousands of different software packages out there. Determine why none of the packages suited your needs. If there’s a single feature that you want and none of them seem to have, you may want to look for a product that has that feature and then see how it stacks up against your list of wants and needs.
In the unlikely event that no product exists to do what you want, you’ll have to consider alternatives: combining several pieces of software, paying someone to develop the software, or doing the task by hand.
Step Three: Making the Purchase
Before you make the big buy, get prices from at least three places: software stores, big-box stores, and many websites all sell software. A caveat about ordering from the Web: stick with names you trust.
Rather than purchasing a whole new software package, you can choose to upgrade your existing software. Yes, I said choose: upgrading is always a choice. Don’t let anyone make you feel that you have to upgrade. In some situations, it makes more sense than others, and upgrades are usually an improvement to the software.
As well, staff may require less training if they’re already familiar with the software. (Even if you’re just upgrading, we still suggest some training, even if it’s just an hour’s briefing session on what’s new in the package.)
When considering an upgrade, make sure you have answers to these questions:
- How many versions am I upgrading? (For example, if you were upgrading from Message Plus 1 to Message Plus 6, you’d be upgrading 5 versions. Keep in mind that often the bigger the version leap, the bigger the learning curve.)
- What new features are added to the product?
- What features have been removed?
- What is the initial investment?
- What hardware or software (operating system and supporting applications) changes will have to be made if I upgrade?
- Are there any hidden costs?
- How do support options change? (Many companies stop supporting software when it reaches a certain age.)
- What known issues exist with this upgrade?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being extremely unnecessary and 10 being vital), how important is this upgrade?
Hopefully the above information will help you in making the decision making process much easier.